2021 BMW R18 evaluate: An American cruiser by a Bavarian lens


2021 BMW R18

You would spend all day selecting out the throwback particulars right here. They’re many and the execution is classy.


Tim Stevens/Roadshow

Have you learnt what Harley-Davidson’s largest market is outdoors of america? You would be forgiven for guessing it is China, since so many different American manufacturers have discovered such nice success there as of late. Or maybe India, a spot with someplace close to 40 million bikes on the street. Neither, nevertheless, is appropriate. 

The reply is Germany, a truth I present not to make sure you’re well-prepped for the following trivia night time at your native bierhaus, however as a result of realizing that truth is vital to understanding not solely why the R18 exists, however certainly why it’s the approach it’s. 

The BMW R18 is a protracted, low, gradual and delightful cruiser. At about $18,000 to begin, it is also fairly costly. That is, in some ways, a Bavarian-built Harley, a machine designed to fend off that Milwaukee presence on the Autobahn. If that appears like a curious proposition, it’s, but it surely’s additionally a well-executed one. 

You need to begin with the look, which is one thing like a cruiser caricature of BMW’s iconic R sequence of bikes. My take a look at bike is painted black with white pinstripes, an understated scheme for such an outrageously designed bike, however a glance that’s, for Beemer followers not less than, as iconic as a pair of pistons protruding the body at odd angles. 

Certainly the pistons are horizontally opposed on the R18, one thing a legally blind particular person may simply inform from 100 yards away. BMW homeowners usually name the cylinders on their bikes jugs however these are greater than a gallon by far, wrapped in chrome and cooling fins and sprouting an enormous exhaust pipe that sweeps ahead earlier than turning again and flaring into an virtually laughably enormous muffler. One way or the other, although, the styling works.

Between the cylinders sits the center of the machine, an engine confronted by but extra chrome and its personal inset BMW brand. There isn’t any radiator right here to cover the easy body or the maybe overwrought particulars of the motor, just a bit oil cooler located down low the place you’d barely discover. 

2021 BMW R18

Handily fends off the inevitable “How huge’s the motor on that factor?”


Tim Stevens/Roadshow

In case you had any doubts concerning the sheer mass of that engine, the enormous “1800cc” badges on both facet shortly put that to relaxation. Massive in displacement, sure, however not essentially output. BMW’s 1,802-cc lump is formally rated at 91 horsepower and 116 pound-feet of torque. I am tempted to match this to a contemporary efficiency engine, just like the 1,103-cc V4 that makes 214 hp within the Ducati Panigale V4 S — greater than twice the facility from an engine that is 60% the scale — however that is a bit unfair. 

A greater comparability could be to a different air-cooled BMW, like my 1965 R69S and its 594-cc, air-cooled, horizontally opposed twin. New, that bike was rated for 35 hp. Do the mathematics and you may see that is barely lower than one-third the displacement but greater than one-third the facility. How far we have are available 55 years. However, to circle again to the Harley-Davidson comparability, this motor may maybe finest be set in opposition to the Milwaukee-Eight 114 discovered within the 2020 Fats Bob and others. That 1,870-cc engine does 86 hp and 119 lb-ft of torque — proper consistent with the R18. 

Numbers are unimportant in comparison with how a factor feels, and suffice to say the R18 feels each bit a motorbike, weighing in at 761 kilos fueled. You’d finest have each ft on the bottom as you heave it off its side-stand and thumb that starter, as a result of the pressure of the engine turning over needs to throw the bike again on its facet once more. Blips of the throttle are additionally met with related shows of Newton’s third regulation of movement, so ensure you’re not standing in a puddle of oil the following time you need just a little additional consideration whereas sitting at a stoplight. 

And the way does it sound? Good, really. It is clearly a twin, however a extra orderly sounding one than the lumpy, “potato-potato” noise of a Harley. The R18 in all fairness quiet when cruising. It is restrained even when accelerating arduous, and whereas I like that audio combine myself I am positive many will probably be stripping off these attractive, sweeping pipes for one thing a good bit louder. 

Look as shut as you want from any angle, visually this bike doesn’t disappoint.


Tim Stevens/Roadshow

The throttle response is nice and it is a bike higher pushed with torque than energy. Although there is a digital tachometer out there inside the tiny LCD nestled contained in the speedometer, it is not wanted. When the vibration will get so dangerous the mirrors are blurring and your fingertips begin going numb, it is time to seize the following gear. 

The ABS-equipped brakes are remarkably good and the six-speed transmission is so snappy and responsive it really caught me without warning. The R18 snicks into the following gear with the sharpness of a sportbike. There’s an optionally available reverse right here, too, one thing I would name a necessity on a rig this massive, however it’s fairly much less straightforward to have interaction. This R18 really makes use of its starter, an engagement course of requiring you attain down and discover a small lever subsequent to your left knee earlier than urgent the starter button. It is nowhere close to as cleanly built-in as that on the Honda Gold Wing.

Certainly, transferring the R18 round a parking zone is an actual chore, the place it very undoubtedly feels its weight. In control, although, and it is a charming trip. When you get the rear shock’s preload dialed within the bike Hoovers up street imperfections and is a superb companion for leisurely rides. On its sharpest throttle response (your choices are Rain, Roll and Rock), it is even moderately sprightly. It is not, nevertheless, a type of magic machines just like the Gold Wing that hides its weight within the corners. On the R18, the pegs begin dragging on the first trace of aggressive cornering. You are at all times properly conscious that you just’re astride one thing substantial, one thing that feels most at residence at velocity on lengthy runs. Sadly, nevertheless, there’s an issue that has me wanting to climb off after lower than an hour at a time. 

The R18, you see, is a literal ache in my ass. The bike is understandably festooned with BMW logos, plus “Berlin constructed” graphics, however some questionable soul determined to place an enormous, metallic “BMW” on the saddle. It is positioned within the good place to press in opposition to my tailbone. There are a number of seats out there, however so far as I can inform all the manufacturing facility items comprise this unlucky and pointless little bit of branding. You might must funds just a little additional for an aftermarket saddle relying on the form, dimension and sensitivity of your posterior. 

Severely, who thought this was a good suggestion?


Tim Stevens/Roadshow

You will want a wholesome funds regardless. The beginning value of a BMW R18 is $17,495. What you see here’s a First Version bike, which provides that crucial pinstriping and far of the chrome. It additionally has the Premium Bundle, including within the reverse operate plus another niceties, and the Choose Bundle, together with an alarm and heated grips. Add one other $250 for the slender passenger seat and also you’re taking a look at $22,265 after a $695 vacation spot payment. And that is earlier than you delve into the handfuls and dozens of machined, polished, chromed and in any other case bespoke elements that may be spec’d out to supply the proper quantity of visible aptitude to match your model. 

It is a configurator that I confess I spent a good bit of time pondering properly earlier than I used to be given the chance to check this bike. I used to be so completely enthusiastic about that preliminary idea I had severe ideas about ordering one myself. Now that I’ve had what quantities to an especially prolonged take a look at trip, I am left with combined emotions. The R18 is gorgeous to behold and I may go on for days calling out the throwback particulars — the wire wheels with black hoops, the finned nuts on the exhaust, the basic single spherical headlight… I could not assist however grin each time I regarded on the factor and, on the transfer, the bundle makes me really feel extremely particular. Nevertheless, the bike itself rides like simply one other cruiser, and I would hoped for extra. When Ducati constructed a cruiser, the Diavel, it was undeniably completely different than the rest available on the market. I did not know what to anticipate from a BMW cruiser, however I actually hadn’t anticipated it to really feel so American. 



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